I had heard that there was not much do to in the town itself, which turned out to be true. I explored the market, which was not any different than the many others I have seen, but it was still shocking as a foreigner to see what they are selling and how dirty everything is. There were a few decent places to eat, including a great place for BBQ ribs called the Rusty Keyhole, and a couple of bars that close at about 11pm at which point the town is shut down and completely dark.
On the first night, I made the mistake of ordering noodles from a street vendor late at night and wound up with severe stomach issues the next day. I somehow got over it pretty quickly by eating bread and rice and sleeping it off.
That same day, I stumbled upon a little cafe
in town and found a pamphlet containing volunteer opportunities. I then met the wife of the guy who started the cafe which organizes projects focussing on helping the deaf and disabled. Since it started, it has evolved into a bigger non profit with many different opportunities to help.
The woman, Katie, introduces me to a local man, Thy who runs a school in the town and also organizes small projects. He didn't speak that much English, but was able to tell me about a new project to build a house for a woman and her daughter near Kampot. It sounded like an interesting projects so I hopped on Thy's moped and we went to a small fishing village about 10km away. The woman we were building the house for was living in a tiny shack
and sleeping on a wooden platform with her daughter and mother, who recently passed away. It was shocking to see the simplistic way of life in the village with no electricity or running water.
We started building the house on the following Monday with only 3 of us working on it (Me, Thy, and Jao, another guy in the village).
The house we were building was basically an upgrade to a bigger shack. Our materials were bamboo, palm leaves, rusty nails, hammer and saw and string made of palm.
The others barely spoke any English, so it was a challenge to not only figure out how to build the house, but communicating as well. Hand gestures and facial expressions were the most efficient form of communication that day. Despite this challenge, we worked out a system and made a lot of progress on the house. It basically involved a lot of nailing and tying together the bamboo and palm.
After working for a few hours, we decided to take a lunch break. I only had bread with me, so I didn't know if they had any food there. The next thing I knew, a woman pulled up on her bike with a huge pot of purple rice on the back, which was actually sticky rice soaked in wine. I didn't really like it, but Jao wolfed down a bowls and was feeling pretty good. I then realized that this was just an appetizer and the village had prepared a huge feast for us with chicken, duck, fresh fresh and the best pepper sauce I've ever had. After this excellent meal, we worked on the house for a few more hours. There was not much left to be done by the end of the day and we were all pretty tired.
Then, Thy who left after lunch came and picked me up and insisted that I come check out his school. Little did I know that "checking out" his school actually meant teaching English for 2 hours. So we drove to his school in an absolute downpour and thunderstorm and when we get there, he said "Ok, Luke you go to Classroom C107 and teach!" Having no clue what to do, I went into the classroom and faced the kids about 8-9 years old. So I wrote my name on the board and where I'm from. They were learning the letter B that day, so I taught them a few sentences with the words blue, bicycle, and banana in them. At first, they were shy and quiet, but at the end I got them to shout out the words and sentences over and over again at the top of their lungs. I think I actually made a difference, and I did the same thing with the next class, but taught them the family tree. Thy really wanted me to come back the next day, but I would rather have stayed for a long period of time than just a couple days. I crashed pretty early that night after an exhausting day. Whew!
I went to Kep the weekend before, which will be my next blog.
I decided to move on from the whole beach party scene in Sihanoukville after a few days and took a bus down the coast to a small town called Kampot.